Thursday, August 30, 2007

Tag you're it!

I've been tagged by Carrie, check out her blog! This means I share eight fun facts about myself and then tag eight other bloggers.

Let's see...

1. I cheered from 8th-12th grade and was extremely, annoyingly peppy. My friends even named a move after me to pick on my overzealousness - "The Marishannon." It was requested quite often...

2. I can only drink ice cold water, anything else makes me want to hurl (just what you want to hear on a food blog huh).

3. My favorite color is pink but my favorite color to wear is blue.

4. I used to have a cat named Tiger (but I renamed it Simba after I saw the Lion King but denied the reason why when my sister accused me of copying the movie). I would put the cat in a high chair, feed it out of a baby spoon, ride it around in a stroller, and swing with it in my shirt pocket. It did all these things and more willingly. I miss my kitty...

5. I disliked Justin until about 3 years ago. Why you ask? Because in elementary and middle school there was a program called ACCENT for the "smart" kids and we were the only two kids from our grade in it (well in 3rd and 4th grade anyway). And I wanted to be the only one. He used to tell me he only got in by one point to make me feel better. But yes...I held a grudge since I was about 8 years old :)

6. I am scared of large dogs...and medium sized dogs...and yappy dogs...and strange dogs...and most dogs (except for my sister's overgrown 90 lb boxer/great dane)

7. I sleep with the light on most of the time when I am by myself - I am a big scaredy cat.

8. I am going to New York in January. It will be my first time on an airplane. I am not scared by the actual flight - I am scared by the thought of finding the right terminal, getting there on time, having what I need, and losing my luggage. Actually, I am not scared of losing my luggage. Just finding it.

So those are the "fun facts" I could think of. I am tagging:
1. Sarah
3. Jen
4. Erika
6. Julia
7. bakingblonde
8. Linda

Monday, August 20, 2007

It tastes better than it looks...

I swear! The "it" I'm referring to is black bean smash. I first made this Rachael Ray recipe a few months ago, and we loved it so much I make it all the time. I also make it because it is simple. And I love simple things. How I make it is really just based on her recipe. Below is how I make it.

Black Bean Smash

  • 1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 large or 1 small white onion, chopped
  • 3 or 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tbsp evoo
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • chicken broth (optional)
Heat evoo in pan over medium heat. Saute onions until translucent. Add garlic and cook a minute more.

Add half can of black beans to the pan, combine with onions and garlic, and smash with back of fork or potato masher.

Add rest of beans, along with seasonings. Mix well and heat. This last time I made them I kept adding a chicken broth a little at a time (tbsp or so) so they wouldn't dry out as I finished dinner. I liked the end result.

I served the black beans with Cilantro Turkey Burgers from Cooking Light. Yes I served the burgers with the black beans, not the other way around, because I am in love with black beans and they are the best part to me. I love how these burgers taste and they are very juicy. I make them just like the recipe, only I don't serve them with the ketchup; Justin doesn't want to try it. We just melt monterey jack cheese over it and serve it on nicely toasted buns.

I also made roasted red potatoes to go with the burgers. Just chop the potatoes into chuncks, toss with evoo and some sort of seasoning, and roast at 400 for 20-30 minutes. This time I sprinkled them with cumin and chili powder.

leftovers anyone?

Perhaps I don't fill my shells as much as most people, or perhaps I just made a lot of filling, but either way, I had filling leftover from stuffed shells that I neede d to use up. So of course, I headed over to the What's Cooking board and asked them. Having no idea what to do with it (and having no shells left), a nestie by the name of branny suggested I make a quiche out of it. Brilliant. Of course, quiche is one of those things that I have never had before and so I didn't even know if I liked it, but I figured why not.
I had about 1 1/2 cups of filling left, so I mixed it with 4 eggs. I then poured that into a pie shell (Pillsbury - I needed a quick weeknight meal) and sprinkled with red pepper flakes, a little salt and pepper, and a little bit of parm cheese. I baked it at 350 for 30 minutes. I don't know if you're "supposed" to do that with the edge of the crust, but I didn't like having a bunch of bare crust sticking up at the top so I turned it over.
So this was good, but not great. It was too eggy and dense to me. Perhaps I should have added a little milk? But it was a great use of leftovers and I would probably do it again if I had leftover filling. It was also much better the next day after it had sat in the fridge all night.

Stuffed Shells

The last time I made chicken stuffed shells I just wasn't too impressed with it. Justin really liked it, but to me it was just dry and plain tasting. But I decided I wanted stuffed shells again, so last week I whipped some up with my new favorite vegetable - spinach (this was why Justin said "no more spinach"). All measurements are definitely approximate :)

Spinach & Chicken Stuffed Shells
  • 15 jumbo shells, cooked according to directions and drained
  • 2 chicken breasts (mine were about 4-5 oz each) boiled and shredded
  • 7 1/2 oz ricotta cheese
  • 4 oz frozen spinach, thawed and drained
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • couple shakes of red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp italian seasoning
  • 1/3 cup mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup parmesean cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups marinara sauce (that's about what I had left, you can use more if you have it)

Heat oven to 400 and spray baking dish with cooking spray.

Mix together all ingredients from shredded chicken to salt and pepper.

Spread 1/2 cup sauce on bottom of baking dish.

Fill cooked shells with chicken mixture and place filled side up in baking dish. Pour rest of sauce over shells. Sprinkle extra cheese on if desired.

Cover with foil and bake for 15-20 minutes, removing foil last 5 minutes.

P.S. I really liked the flavor these had and will keep making them this way.
P.P.S. The original recipe I used for stuffed shells can be found on Amber's blog; that recipe is how I learned how to make stuffed shells.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Baked french toast???

I've been wanting to make bread pudding for a few months now. Not that I had any idea what it tasted like or if I would even like it. I tried to find a recipe, but I couldn't find anything that appealed to me. So I hopped on The Nest and asked the girls on the What's Cooking? board if anyone had a recipe. Carrie from Carrie's Cooking Adventure came to my rescue with a link to the bread pudding she had made.

The only changes I made was use wheat bread (that makes it healthy, right?), only 3 eggs, and I ommited 1/4 cup of sugar. My vanilla sauce was very runny, but I wasn't sure if that was how it was supposed to be or not. I poured sauce over the pudding but ended up pouring some of it out because it was drowning the bread. But it still imparted the flavor.

I liked this recipe. When I was mixing everything together I realized that this was kinda like baked french toast, so I figured I had to like it. I don't know how "authentic" this recipe was, but it was a great start for someone who has ever even tasted bread pudding (and also for someone who didn't have a lot of ingredients in the house). I also love how puffy it was when I took it out of the oven. It looked so yummy. The only change I would make to this recipe is to omit the raisins, which are optional anyway, because I just didn't like how they tasted burnt after being baked on top of the bread. And this is coming from someone who loves raisins.

Teeny Tiny Comfort

I don't like even like meatloaf. Most people think of it as real comfort food, but I don't like the thought of eating a big hunk of meat. That's probably why I didn't eat hamburgers for over 10 years. But despite my loath, every now and then I crave meatloaf. Don't ask. So this last time my craving hit, I went looking for something a little different than my usual egg/oatmeal/meat/ketchup/blah/blah/blah. And Italian Style Meatloaf I on was what I found. I thirded (is that the right word) the recipe since I just wanted to make enough for Justin and me to have one serving for dinner. Below is how I made it.

Italian Style Meatloaf
  • 1/2 pound ground turkey
  • 2/3 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon ketchup plus more for top
  • 1/4 teaspoon Italian-style seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 tbsp parmesean cheese

Preheat oven to 350.

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Press into two mini loaf pans or shape into two loaf shapes on a baking sheet. Spread extra ketchup on top.

Bake for 30 minutes.

(have I mentioned I love my teeny tiny loaf pans)

So I really liked this meatloaf. It was bursting with flavor and was anything but just a big hunk of meat. I'm glad that I replaced the canned tomatoes with fresh. Justin also really liked this meatloaf, and he hates meatloaf more than I do, and said he would love to have this again.

To go along with the meatloaf I sauteed some green beans. I would like to tell you how much...but I have no clue. Let's just say it was enough for us.

This is how I did it. I originally got these instructions from this recipe on I do different seasonings depending on what I am making, but sauteeing is my favorite way to prepare green beans.

  • Bring a large sauté pan of water to a rapid boil and add the beans.
  • Simmer until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes.
  • Drain well and return to the saucepan.
  • Lightly coat with evoo and italian seasoning.
  • Sauté, tossing frequently, for about 1 minute more. (I actually do this until a few sides get brown and crispy)
  • Serve at once.

So I wanted to serve this meal with some yummy garlic mashed potatoes (this is supposed to be comfort food right?), but Justin had other plans.

See that yellow blob on the plate? That's right. We had the blue box: Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Justin wanted mac 'n cheese, but he didn't want homemade mac 'n cheese. Now there is nothing wrong with the blue box. It's just that I prefer to eat homemade and I am really trying to limit the chemicals we take in from our food. And chemicals this has. When I opened up the powder packet to add to the noodles I was taken back by the unnatural orange color of the "cheese" (that I should have gotten a picture of). The things we do for those we love...

But, alas, I must admit I enjoyed my meal, all of it.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Sounds tropical

Being stuck with a large black plantain and half a can of coconut milk from dinner one night, I sat down to think of what I could make. It isn't hard to make a dish with those two ingredients, but nothing I found when I did a search looked appetizing to me at the moment. So I thought (this next part is very scholarly), plaintains....bananas. Bananas....banana muffins! I decided I wanted to make plantain muffins and add in the coconut milk somehow. This was sounding very yummy to me already. So I went to my mom's house to get her banana muffin recipe, the one I grew up on and the only one I will ever make. I pretty much just stuck with the recipe, except subbing plantains for the bananas, coconut extract for some of the vanilla, and half of the butter for coconut milk.

Coconut Plaintain Muffins
  • 2 large eggs

  • 1/4 cup softened butter

  • 1/4 cup coconut milk

  • ½ tsp salt

  • ½ tsp vanilla extract

  • ½ tsp coconut extract

  • 1 large black plantain

  • 1 tsp baking soda

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 1 ½ cup white flour

The steps to this banana muffin recipe are another reason I love it so much!

Step 1: Mix everything together (you don't even have to mash the plantain first if you don't want to).

Step 2: Pour into 12 prepared muffin tins and bake at 350 for 45 minutes.

Step 3: Enjoy :)

P.S. These were better than regular ol' banana bread anyday!

We'll call this my pear phase

I go through phases with my food, especially with fruit. Let's say I really like oranges. For the next few weeks I will buy and eat nothing but oranges. Then I will get so sick of them that I won't even want to look at oranges for weeks! Then I will slowly lose my disgust and will incorporate oranges back into a normal part of my diet. Or start the vivious cycle over again...

A few months back my food of choice for my phase was the lovely pear. There is nothing I love more than a ripe, juicy pear. And at one point I might as well have been single handedly supporting all the pear farmers in America.

When I started to lose my interest in pears, I realized that I had so many and I needed to use them up. So I went to and typed in "pear." One thing that caught my eye was pear bread. I had never heard of that. Banana bread I had eaten, zucchini bread I have eaten, but no pear bread. So I went with what looked like a good recipe, Pear Bread I. Click the title for the original recipe, below is the recipe with a couple changes. I normally don't like to make changes the first time I make a recipe (mainly because I don't like reviewers who change the recipe around and then give it a bad rating) but I figured my changes didn't change it too much (plus I wasn't reviewing it on the website).

Pear Bread
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tblsp ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup applesauce
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 2 cups peeled shredded pears (I used two large pears)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • dash of nutmeg (still not sure why I did that...)

In a large mixing bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Make a well in the center of the bowl.

In a separate bowl combine the oil, eggs, sugar, grated pears, and vanilla. Blend well. Add to well of dry ingredients. Stir until just moistened.

Spoon batter into 2 greased and floured 8x5x3 inch loaf pans. (I actually used one loaf pan, unsure of the exact size, and two mini loaf pans)
Bake in a preheated 325 degree F (165 degrees C) oven for one hour and 15 minutes. Cool on wire rack before removing from the loaf pans. (time varies, watch closely after about an hour)

I really liked this bread. Many reviewers thought this was too "cakey," but to me it was perfect and better than I expected. It was moist with just the right amount of sweetness. Overall the pear taste was very subtle, but every now and again I would bite into a shredded piece of pear and get a burst of flavor.

Is it ready yet?

Flipping through the March '07 issue of Cooking Light I saw what looked like one of the most delicious cakes: Italian Cream Cake. It just looked like this wonderfully moist two layer cake full of chopped pecans and covered in cream cheese icing. Now I normally don't like pecans, but I had to try this cake. Plus it got a four out of five star rating by reviewers on the website, so I figured it must be pretty good. So I beat my egg whites, folded in my sifted cake flour, and toasted my teeny chopped pecans. I imagined it to be a moist, cakey version of an angel food cake with pecans...This cake should been moist, the reviewers said it would be, but mine wasn't. But that was probably my fault. See, I checked the cake when at the appropriate time, but it just didn't seem done. So I left it in there. Every minute or so I would check it, and it just didn't seem done. Finally after about 10 minutes I gave up and took it out. By then I could tell it was overdone.

After it cooled I frosted it with the homemade cream cheese frosting. I should have taken the advice of the reviewers and used another cream cheese frosting, but I am stubborn and must go by the book the first time. The icing tasted alright, very cream cheesy and sugary, but it lacked something. It was also very thick and there just wasn't enough of it. I was able to cover the entire cake, but I really had to skimp on the inside between the two layers.
All in all the cake was good. But then again, not many cakes are bad in my opinion. I would probably make this again, but do 1 1/2 times the amount of icing (or use another frosting recipe) and pull the cake out of the oven even if I don't think it is ready...

No more spinach...

Growing up I loved watching Popeye the Sailor and had a videotape of a few different Popeye cartoons that I would watch over and over. But however many times I saw him squeeze open that can of spinach and swallow it in one big gulp, I could not be convinced that spinach was something to be enjoyed. So growing up I never ate spinach.

In fact, I never had spinach (unless I'm suppressing some horrible memory) until about 5 months ago when my mom brought over a salad to dinner one day that had baby spinach in it. And I liked it. From then on I was hooked; in salads, sauteed as a side dish, stuffed into meat, and the list goes on and on. Spinach is a very versatile vegetable.

The first thing I ever made with spinach was stuffed chicken. And Thursday night, that's how I prepared my leafy green vegetable. Last time I had made spinach stuffed chicken, the filling had ricotta cheese in it. I had also thought about mixing it with feta cheese, but since I was already making au gratin potatoes, I didn't want to have cheese in the chicken, too. So I went with something simple, as usual, and put together what seemed right to me.

Spinach Stuffed Chicken
  • 4 oz frozen spinach, thawed and drained
  • 3 oz plain yogurt
  • 1 tsp garlic powder (approximately)
  • dash of ground nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 boneless/skinless chicken breasts (mine were about 4-5 oz each)

Preheat oven to 375.

Mix together first five ingredients.

Put each piece of chicken between sheets of plastic wrap and pound until 1/4" thick. Justin actually does this step for me and uses a small cast iron skillet.

Divide mixture evenly between pieces of chicken, spreading evenly over entire breast. Roll each piece up, jelly-roll style, and place seam side down in a baking dish and place in the oven for 45 minutes.

I told you it was simple. Despite the minimal ingredients, this chicken was great and the filling would be a great base to add more yummy things to. The only thing Justin told me about this chicken, other than it was really good, was that this was the last time we were having spinach for awhile. That was the third night in a row that dinner had consisted of chicken and spinach, and he does not want to get kidney stones. Now this knowledge of spinach causing kidney stones does not come from any medical background, but from an episode of Reba where Brock gets kidney stones from eating too much spinach. Of course, spinach does contain large amounts of oxalate which reduce the body's ability to absorb calcium and can lead to kidney stones. Blah, blah, blah...

It tastes like fried cheese

A few weeks ago I had seen a recipe for au gratin potatoes on Ally's blog Culinary Infatuation. Never having had au gratin potatoes before, I wasn't even sure what au gratin potatoes were. My only experience with them had been seeing the boxed kind on the grocery store shelf.

And to be perfectly honest, potatoes that come from a box or bag scare me a little. They have an awful taste and an even worst texture. The few times my mom made mashed potatoes from a box growing up I refused to eat them. I can tell the difference no matter what you do to them. I need real potatos full of starchy goodness. And when I saw this recipe I knew that I had to have them. I mean, who can go wrong with cheese and potatoes (fresh potatoes that is)?

So tonight was the night to make them. The only thing change I made to the original recipe was to use two giant red potatoes instead of three medium Yukon golds and only making two layers of the potatoes and sauce because, well, that seemed enough to me; I had also cut my potatoes a little thicker than I should have. I also used already ground nutmeg instead of freshly grated. I almost omitted the nutmeg altogether, but I'm glad I left it in because it added a nice, nutty undertone to the dish that I really like (I really sound like I know what I'm talking about, don't I).
I was happy with how this turned out and will be making it again. Justin really liked it, too, and went back for seconds. He especially liked how the cheese got crispy on the edges (I will admit that was the best part) and decided that it made the dish taste like fried cheese!

Friday, August 17, 2007

I caved...

As much as I tried to fight it, I did it. I started a food blog. I have been taking pictures of my food for months now with every intention of starting a blog. But I have been too scared and intimidated by the amazing blogs that I frequent, especially the ones by the talented ladies on the What's Cooking? board on The Nest.

So I have conquered my fear and given into my urges. But this will be good for me. I often forget what foods I cooked that Justin, my not-so-picky husband, and I liked, so I will now have a place to keep track of all my hits and misses. I am also hoping to give encouragement to new cooks and share a few yummy recipes with others (oh please, somebody, like my food...)

I am by no means a gourmet chef. I am learning. I have always been a picky eater growing up and I am trying to (slowly) change that. Despite my lack of a vast foodie knowledge, I enjoy cooking. And more importantly - I enjoy eating!

(Oh, and those pictures I've been taking? Those will be my posts for awhile!)